GALLUP FINDS THAT 2 IN 3 REGISTERED VOTERS DISAPPROVE OF BARRY O'S HANDLING OF THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE.
THE FADED CELEBRITY IN CHIEF IS GETTING ONE FAILING REPORT CARD AFTER ANOTHER.
"AT THIS RATE," BARRY O FRETTED TO THESE REPORTERS, "I'LL GET PULLED OFF THE VOLLEYBALL TEAM! THIS COULD COMPLETELY DESTROY MY EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES!"
How bad is it? Longtime Nouri enabler and minimizer Patrick Cockburn (Indpendent) writes today, "Isolated and discredited by humiliating military defeat, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is likely to go soon, battered as he is by only slightly veiled demands for his immediate departure from powerful figures who once supported him." Dave Zweifel (Madison Cap Times) offers, "If al-Maliki can't reach -- or more likely, refuses to reach -- an agreement with other factions to share in Iraq's government, then we need to walk away."
Why is he right? Dave Zweifel is right. You can argue he's right because Nouri has committed War Crimes, had journalists arrested and beaten, beaten and killed protesters and bred violence and division in the country.
I would certainly agree with all those reasons.
But there's another reason and it's one the press hasn't paid attention to.
Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:
Wednesday night on The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, audio and video), Judy Woodruff moderated a discussion between Senator Tim Kaine and Senator John McCain. We'll note this:
JUDY WOODRUFF: Should the U.S. be providing military — more military assistance to Iraq right now?
SEN. TIM KAINE: Judy, the question is a little bit premature, because what we really need — and there is a process — the way this is supposed to work is the president will come to us and lay out what he thinks is the preferred option.
And then, after consulting with Congress, we will go forward. I expect that he will do that soon. He’s already been in significant consultation, not only with leadership, but with others like me, but when he does come, there’s going to be some hard questions.
Maliki — we had the opportunity. The U.S. wanted the stay in Iraq and Maliki basically kicked us out. He didn’t want us to stay. Then he ignored all the advice that we and others gave him about how to govern Iraq, to try to do it in a way that brought Kurds and Sunnis and Shias together. Instead, he’s run Iraq for Shias and marginalized, even oppressing Sunni and Kurds.
And so this extremism, the Sunni extremism, has been a predictable consequence of that, in my view. They’re horrible people doing horrible things, but he’s given them an opening by governing in such an autocratic way.
So, if it’s just a matter of, do we come in now to back up Maliki with military force after he kicked us out and after he’s governed the wrong way, that would be foolish. What we should be first talking about is, are there reforms that the Iraqis are willing to make to try to demonstrate to all in the country that they are all going to be treated equally?
Those kind of reforms really are the things that have to happen before we decide what kind of assistance we should provide.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you have had raised a couple of things. And let me just pick them one by one.
In terms of the reforms, Prime Minister Maliki says he has reached out, for example, to Sunnis. He’s brought them — he’s given them a role in his government. He says, in essence, that it’s just wrong to say that he has not reached out.
SEN. TIM KAINE: Virtually every objective account that we have heard from Iraq experts here, not only folks connected with the administration, State Department, DOD, but NGOs and others, suggest just the contrary, that he has ignored that advice and that he has run this government for Shias with the strong support of the Shia-based government in Iran, and he has done it in a way that has marginalized Sunnis and marginalized Kurds.
And that’s why they’re not coming to his aid right now.
We'll note McCain now publicly favors "boots on the ground" but we're not interested in his comments. Not because he's a Republican but because Kaine came close to something, circled around it -- like Cher with a note she never quite hits -- but never got to it. We'll cover it in Friday's snapshot. We are by no means done with this topic.
We keep hearing various voices saying 'Maliki kicked us out.'
There's actually much worse than no SOFA, there's wasted billions. Yes, some of it was supposedly brought back in, some of the US taxpayer millions were not wasted, supposedly.
I mean "supposedly" because it's the State Dept which operated without any oversight during Barack's first term -- something that reporters should be hitting Hillary Clinton on hard. John Kerry wasn't Secretary of State for more than nine months when he made good on his promise to have an IG for the State Dept -- a position that was empty for Hillary's entire four years as Secretary of State.
It matters and reporters should be asking her why she felt she was above oversight.
Because she felt that way, the country still doesn't know what was done with all the money, there are several ongoing investigations trying to determine whether the State Dept lost money, had it stolen or what.
But, at it's most basic, Barack's plan for Iraq is to provide assistance and training.
Let's speak very slowly because some people don't get other governments.
In the United States, Barack Obama is president. He nominates people to be in the Cabinet. For example, he nominated Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. The Senate confirmed that nomination, voted for Hagel. Hagel is now Secretary of State. If Barack is unhappy with Hagel's performance, he will ask for Hagel's resignation. By custom -- though not by law -- Hagel would then resign.
It's different in Iraq. The president is not the head of their country and not elected in a general election. The head of their country is the prime minister -- also not elected in a general election. Parliament elects a prime minister-designate. The prime minister -- if he or she abides by the Constitution -- has 30 days to name a Cabinet -- that's a full Cabinet. It's the only rule for moving from prime minister-designate to prime minister. In 2010, Nouri got a second term via the extra-constitutional and US-brokered Erbil Agreement so he didn't have to abide by the Constitution.
He refused to nominate people to head the three security ministries. That includes the Ministry of the Interior which is over the federal police. Let's say Nouri had wanted Chuck Hagel for that spot and Hagel had wanted that spot and taken Iraqi citizenship. If Nouri had nominated him and Parliament had approved him, Chuck Hagel would be Minister of the Interior. If Nouri decided he didn't want Chuck after the vote, Nouri had no say.
Hagel could stay on. Hagel is not required to step down. The only one who can remove Hagel from office is the Parliament. So if Nouri nominates someone and the Parliament votes them into that office, they basically own that office for the full term.
Nouri staged a power grab -- unconstitutional and no one wanted to call it out and very few even wanted to mention it. One exception would be CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq. Another would be Nussaibah Younis whose October 2012 "Time to Get Tough on Iraq" (New York Times) offered a number of important observations including:
Even apart from the Syrian crisis, the United States should be getting tough on the Maliki regime to prevent Iraq's descent into authoritarianism. Although Prime Minister Maliki's first term had its successes, including the "Charge of the Knights" attack against Shiite militias in Basra in 2008, Prime Minister Maliki has become increasingly consumed by his own dictatorial ambitions. And a number of his actions have heightened sectarian tensions in Iraq. He cut a deal with the extremist Shiite party led by Moktada al-Sadr. He reneged on a promise to meaningfully include the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya list in government. He presided over what's being seen as a witch hunt against leading Sunni politicians, culminating in the sentencing to death in absentia of Iraq's vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi.
In addition, Mr. Maliki's government is plagued by incompetence, corruption and a contempt for human rights; ordinary citizens are fast losing confidence in the power of the democratic system. Mr. Maliki has further undermined Iraq's independent institutions, such as the electoral commission and the Iraqi central bank, by bringing them under his direct custodianship. And, most dangerously of all, he is concentrating power over Iraq's entire security apparatus in his hands by refusing to appoint permanent ministers to lead the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the Interior and National Security Council.
Nouri put puppets in as 'acting' ministers. They're not ministers. They do what he tells them or he pulls them out of the post. They've never been voted on by Parliament so they can't act independently. They have no real power.
They are the voice of Nouri.
Hopefully, we're all on the same page now and we can get to why that matters in terms of Barack's plan.
We covered the November 30, 2012 House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1, 2012 snapshot and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions.
He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program? Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue."
The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete?
Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it." She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government.
But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name. That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States." He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
8 years. 8 years of training last November. And for Fiscal Year 2013, the State Dept wants $149.6 million dollars to train yet another year?
From that hearing:
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye." Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.
The State Dept still can't answer Ackerman's question: "When will they be willing to stand up without us?" They can't even answer his second question: "Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?"
The above coves two issues. Let's grab the first one. Didn't the US government already spend millions and spend years trying to train the forces?
What's different now?
I think an argument can be made that the mass desertions from the security forces -- nearly 400,000 deserted this month by some reports -- results from Iraqis in the security forces being conflicted about attacking their fellow citizens. That happened in 2008 when Nouri sent security forces to attack Basra. Some people are surely thinking "I don't want to get killed" and who could blame them for that? But there's also the issue of Iraqis being asked to kill one another.
How do you deal with that?
I don't know that you do. Again, asking soldiers to attack their fellow citizens is always risking desertion -- that's been true in century after century, country after country.
It's worse in Iraq because you've had Nouri attacking Sunnis for everything in the last four years. He ran off the Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and tortured Tareq's staff and bodyguards to try to get them to provide forced confessions -- at least one bodyguard died of kidney damage as a result of this torture. Further harming Nouri on just this one example, Tareq was not only found guilty in absentia by a Baghdad court that had publicly declared his guilt months before the trial started but he was also repeatedly -- four or five times -- sentenced to death by this court. That surpasses "excessive" and borders on "obsessive." Other Sunni politicians have been targeted, Sunni activists have been targeted, Sunnis have been disappeared into the prison systems leaving their families not even knowing if their loved ones are still alive, Sunni girls and women have been tortured and raped in Nouri's detention centers, jails and prisons . . . It doesn't matter if you're Sunni or Shi'ite, that has to bother you. So when Nouri orders an assault on Sunnis, all of that is factored in and weighs on those being ordered to carry out the asault.
For Barack's proposals to succeed at the most limited definition of success requires Nouri al-Maliki to step aside. Training will be wasted -- US training -- and advising unless Nouri goes.
That's one issue from the above. The above contains another issue as well.
Now let's talk about the 'acting' Minister of the Interior. That's Deputy Minister Adnan al-Asadi. He is one of the Iraqis Ranking Member Ackerman referred to in the November 30th hearing, "Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector Generals how utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue."
Adnan al-Asadi was not Minister of the Interior. He was 'acting' (for four years) and doing Nouri's bidding.
Adnan al-Asadi is who stated, to SIGIR, in 2012, that the US government should spend the money set aside for training Iraqi forces instead on programs in the US. Two years ago, Nouri didn't want training and assistance. If this is news to you, you should refer to the Office of the Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction's [PDF format warning] "Iraq Police Development Program: Lack Of Iraqi Support And Security Problems Raise Questions About The Continued Viability Of The Program."
That report found that the US State Dept had wasted ("de facto waste") approximately $206 million in training the Iraqi police since they took over October 1, 2011. How so? They spent $98 million on a Basra training facility and $108 million on a Baghdad training facility.
And what happened to those facilities?
The US taxpayers footed the bill and the State Dept, after Nouri made clear that there would be no training from the US, ended up abandoning the buildings and handing them over to the Iraqi government -- and Nouri didn't pay a penny for those facilities.
In real time, when this nonsense was taking place, there were some members of Congress asking why these fortified and new buildings weren't being turned over to NGOs or civic organizations in Iraq but instead were being gifted to the man who had killed the training program?
No answer was ever provided to that question.
The US taxpayer spent millions on the construction of training facilities, on the presence of trainers, on scheduling training and Nouri's forces -- apparently on Nouri's orders -- didn't show up for training.
Now the US taxpayer is going to foot the bill again?
The Congress needs to find out the price tag on Barack's new Iraq mission.
The Congress needs to find out who's paying it.
Nouri asked for it. He sits on billions, he can pay for it.
Why isn't he being asked to pay for it?
RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"